“Introverts can’t succeed.” (Says who?)

Last night, we had the first parent’s evening at my son’s new secondary school. My son is hardworking, conscientious and worries needlessly about getting into trouble. As with his primary, I was expecting glowing reports praising good grades and excellent behaviour.

I was right. To an extent.

The first teacher we saw reaffirmed how bright he was. How he’s working at a higher level. How well mannered and good natured he is. Kind to his fellow classmates and always considerate of others.

So far so good.

‘But.’ His teacher frowned, and sadly shook his head. ‘There is a big problem.’

My son’s eyes met mine and I saw panic slide across his face.

‘What’s the problem?’ I asked.

A lengthy sigh. ‘He’s quiet.’

‘And?’

‘That’s an issue.’

‘That’s his nature.’

‘We have some big personalities and frankly some disruptive students. He needs to speak up and make himself heard.’

‘Why?’

‘Because you never get anywhere in life being an introvert, do you? If you want to succeed you have to learn to shout loudly.’

Umm. I’m an introvert and seem to have done quite well thank you, as has his father.

This set the pattern for the rest of the evening. Out of 11 teachers, 5 told him he had to be louder. More confident. Be something that he isn’t, because of course when you’re shy and insular someone telling you to be loud and confident is exactly what you (don’t) need.

Outside, in the car, I told my rather forlorn twelve year old that I was immensely proud of him. He has been predicted A’ grades in almost every subject and his behaviour is exemplary. But more important than all of that, I told him that I loved him completely exactly the way he is and that he should never, ever feel that being quiet and introverted is a character flaw. Indeed if he follows his dream career path of becoming an author being insular will serve him well. After all, who’s ever heard of an extroverted writer?

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33 thoughts on ““Introverts can’t succeed.” (Says who?)

  1. “Quiet People have the Loudest minds” – Stephen Hawking (also an introvert – and pretty well respected worldwide!) Sounds like your son’s doing brilliantly to me. x

  2. I’m a teacher of thousands (over 35 years), mother of 3 and grandmother of 4. I have some personal and professional experience of and knowledge about the subject. I understand how upset you must have felt, but I’m sure teachers were only trying to point out some aspects your son could improve on, bearing in mind that school is not only a place of academic learning. Social skills (and many other subjects) are also teachers’ concerns. It’s up to you how you follow up that information. I agree that being assertive is no guarantee for a better/happier/more successful life, but being or appearing too indulgent with others could lead to being taken for granted, succumbing to peer pressure, or even in extreme cases bullying. That said, teachers may have overreacted, just like doctors sometimes do and make you have loads of tests which often/ mostly come back negative, but they want to be on the safe side, just in case.
    Id talk about it with him, and if he’s happy and there are no changes in his behaviour, I’m sure he’ll be all right.
    Hope this helps you feel better/more positive about the teacher’s comments.

      • Teachers have a demanding job and most have huge hearts and tons of patience, but not all schools are perfect for all children. If the teaching practices or school mission statement doesn’t suit you, you may find a better option. Being happy with your child’s school is vital. I wish you the best of luck❤

  3. Sad to see that nothing has changed since I was at school. This is exactly what my parents were told as well. And my careers advisor told me she wouldn’t help me apply for the university degree I wanted to do as it was for a career I was too “quiet and introvert” for. She kept saying “you need to do something in the caring profession due to your personality”.

    I’m proud to be quiet and introvert but it took me a long time to become at peace with it after being told constantly at school and uni that I needed to be louder and more extrovert.

    Glad your son has the love and support to be himself xx

  4. I cannot believe a teacher would say that! I was once told at school that I should sit somewhere else when a student admitted he purposely kicked footballs at my face to break my glasses. So he’s not alone!!

    I always get told I’m quiet or people don’t know how to take me – stop being so judgemental it’s better than being loud and irritating!! Actually I’m the funny one in the group and great at my job, so what if I’m not always that out there when socialising my bullying post creates a lack of confidence which I’m still overcoming…

    Your son will succeed – being quiet does not make a difference and teachers like that should be sacked for saying such stupid things!!

    All the best,
    Shannon x

    Sent from my iPhone

  5. Isn’t ‘introverted’ just another way to say ‘self-sufficient’? The idea that introverted means shy or lacking in confidence is pure baloney.

  6. Oh, this is so familiar! All through his school life my son had been told to be louder, to take part in class discussions more, despite the fact he’s reached fourteen and is still getting very good grades in most subject (his maths is stellar), his attitude to learning and behaviour are still great. All the way through school – ‘needs to put his hand up more’, ‘needs to ask more questions or we don’t know if he understands or not’. Well, you do, because his grades are great and he says he doesn’t ask questions because he generally knows what he needs to do.
    It’s this thinking that extrovert is better, that those who shout loudest know most. I wish I’d had your confidence – instead I spent years thinking the teachers were right, trying to persuade my son to be someone he’s not. This is a fault in society as well as education though. People think extroverts are happy and more successful, when some of the extroverts I know are just lacking in self confidence and need constant attention to feed a deficit in themselves.
    My husband is an introvert but works for one of the biggest animation companies in the world – it’s all nonsense.
    Sorry, I’ll get off my high horse now! I’m sure your son will happy and successful just the way he is. He knows he’s loved, now he also knows he’s not alone.

  7. How odd that they picked him up for being quiet. I thought they’d be delighted to have someone well behaved in the class. I’ve always been a quiet person but I’ve found recently that I’ve had to push myself forward to get noticed in my job. I think it’s a balancing act of being confident enough to speak up but not to try and be someone you’re not. Tell him not to worry – he’s going to be fine!

  8. Interesting piece as this was me throughout school and university and my daughter to some extent. Agree with the earlier comments, the default position does seem to be that extroverts are best – in reality us introverts do speak out, but mainly when when we have something to say!

  9. These teachers don’t sound very educated ! I’m so sorry your son had to sit through that!

    I’m also an introvert and went through the same things in school. I was always told to speak up in class etc. But I’ve progressed through the education system right up to Masters level, gone back to uni to give a lecture and now I run my own business. And I did all of this whilst being introverted and ‘quiet’ !

    Sounds like your son is a pretty awesome boy!

  10. I had the same thing when I was a kid. Doesn’t get involved enough. People really need to understand we have a different approach and somethings that’s learning from a distance as an observer so to speak. You shouldn’t try and make us change as we offer just as much as anyone else to the world.

Constructive criticism appreciated

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